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Prospects of Hindu terrorism in India

At least 10 people, including a serving Lieutenant Colonel Prashad Srikant Purohit and a Hindu monk and nun, have been arrested over alleged involvement in bomb explosions that killed four people in the Muslim-dominated town of Malegaon in the western Maharashtra state in India. The network is linked to another arrested former major Ramesh Upadhyay who represents the terrorist organisation Abhinav Bharat. The accused Lt Col Purohit is also being investigated over a bomb attack in February 2007 that killed 68 people on the Samjhauta Express, a “friendship” train between Delhi and Lahore, killing mostly Pakistani passengers. Investigators fear that the trail will go on to net more serving and retired officers.

The colonel has confessed to the Samjhauta Express blast and foreclosed the “options” of “conspiracy” screamed by some Hindutva politicians. Col Purohit has also confessed to training Hindu terrorists who had taken to attacking Muslims and has told investigators that he not only trained the Samjhauta Express terrorists, he also supplied them with the explosives to do the job. The intent he says was to cause armed conflict between Pakistan and India so that anti-Muslim passions could be nurtured in India, leading to violence.

Indian analysts are now worried about Hindu terrorism. Some of it has been on display for a long time against the Muslim community. Some of it is recent, targeting Christian missionaries and Christian converts. Because of the rise of Hindu fundamentalism in the 1980s, or a revival of old Hindu supremacist thinkers like Savarkar, who was behind the killing of Gandhi, India is now open to terrorism that is lashing out at the state. People are accustomed to voting the BJP to power as an alternative to the Congress and that in turn empowers the grand Hindu fundamentalist alliance called the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) that contains such extremist outfits as Bajrang Dal.

The Indian state of Gujarat that supplied India with some of its great moderate leaders and gave birth to the trading elite that has brought great prestige to the country, is now ruled by the BJP even after its government was found complicit in the carnage of Muslims. What will Hindu terrorism look like if, God forbid, it should spread into other provinces and the state proves too weak to tackle it? Will it take the shape of the Taliban violence in Pakistan? Will the Indian state be forced to retreat in the face of the terrorists because of its vulnerability to religion? Will the terrorists use intimidation to force the civilian population to elect extremists to power?

While terrorism derives strength from the general disorder prevailing around the globe, the Indian state was thought to be different, being secular constitutionally. But the rise of Hindu fundamentalists has begun to challenge the state and Indian analysts worry that there may be greater penetration of Hindutva ideology in the armed forces. The BJP has been wooing officers and brought into its fold many former generals, giving them tickets to contest elections for Lok Sabha. One former general affiliated with the BJP is a chief minister and one former governor S K Sinha stirred communal passions to a point where the Indian Held Kashmir is up in protest against New Delhi. There is no central dogma in Hinduism which the Hindu terrorist can refer to but Hindutva is being transformed into a dogmatic creed with Hindus agreeing to kill non-Hindus. Given that Lt Col Purohit was working in the Military Intelligence Directorate, the possibility of the intelligence agencies having been tainted can hardly be ignored.

Political parties like the BJP have built upon the idea of the Hindu state on the basis of an ideology that indicts the Muslims for having ruled India and imposed their religion on the local population. What is happening today is the high point of this “reaction” to the state’s alleged “pampering” of the Muslim minority even though the Muslims of India are a most backward and disadvantaged community and need affirmative action from the secular state to improve their lot. This “reactive” terrorism may not terrorise the world directly but if it gets out of hand within the region, it will have an indirect larger impact by spurring on the Muslim fundamentalists that are already gearing up for an Armageddon. It could also suck in Bangladesh.

On the plus side, the discovery of a connection between the Indian army and the Hindu fundamentalist could galvanise New Delhi into adopting a new policy that reduces focus on Pakistan as the origin of all such violence in India. The unravelling of the mystery of the Samjhauta Express blasts will hopefully bring India and Pakistan together and reduce their mutual recrimination. Once this trend subsides, the populations of the two countries will be freed from the rhetoric of hatred and distrust released by the two states against each other. Hatred of Pakistan in India feeds upon the constant refrain of “Pakistani involvement” in the bomb explosions in the various Indian cities that are later owned by local organisations. (Daily Times, 19 Nov 2008)

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Abdul Nishapuri

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